The National Audubon Society has named Keith Laakkonen as Director for Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida. As Sanctuary Director, Laakkonen will oversee the management of the 13,450-acre sanctuary and its 25 full- and part-time staff responsible for land conservation, research, policy, and public engagement.
Laakkonen, with more than 20 years of environmental management experience as a public servant, most recently worked for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as Director at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Naples and as regional administrator for the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection. During this time, he managed 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters and oversaw the design and construction of the Ten Thousand Islands Field Station and Dormitory in Goodland. He also held the position of President of the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association which represents 30+ National Estuarine Research Reserves around the nation.
“I have a passion for Audubon’s mission and purpose and am honored to be able to work in one of the most important and legendary conservation areas in all of South Florida,” says Laakkonen. “I am looking forward to joining the staff, board, and thousands of members in the fight to conserve and protect this special place.”
Prior to becoming director at Rookery Bay Research Reserve, he held positions at Charlotte Harbor State Buffer Preserve, St. Martin’s Marsh Aquatic and Buffer Preserve in north central Florida, and as Environmental Sciences Coordinator for the Town of Fort Myers Beach where, in 2011, he earned the Guy Bradley award from Audubon Florida for his work protecting beach-nesting birds. His conservation career began at Florida Fish & Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit in Gainesville conducting research on American alligators.
Laakkonen is a Southwest Florida native, an avid birder, and a longtime member of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. A graduate of the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology, Laakkonen completed his master’s degree at Florida Gulf Coast University with a focus on sea-level rise policy. His interests include watershed management, environmental policy, wildlife ecology, prescribed fire management, hydrologic restoration, exotic plant and animal management, and environmental education and outreach.
Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, has been an Audubon-protected site for more than 100 years. Science-driven land management protects these 13,450 acres, including the world’s largest remaining, old-growth bald cypress forest. An estimated 100,000 visitors annually explore the Sanctuary’s 2.25 miles of boardwalk through ancient forest and marsh habitat. Memberships and donations provide crucial support for conservation work at the Sanctuary.